5. Slum Level physical works - the Slum Networking alternative


All too often misguide and ineffective approaches are used to improve slums, with the result that much effort and resources are wanted in providing piecemeal, short-term solutions that soon fail because they are poorly designed, planned and executed.

There is no need to contemplate beggarly solutions such as public latrines, common water standposts, partial brick paving of poor quality and open gutters. These measures area all cosmetic and not durable.

Slum dwellers have consistently demonstrated that  they are very keen to change their living conditions. Instead of harnessing the greatest resource, namely, the slum dwellers themselves, the conventional programmes spread the scarce public resources too thinly over a large slum population.


In Indore Habitat Project, instead of using the conventional ‘Slum’ solutions to physical services, an attempt has been made to penetrate the conventional, high quality urban infrastructure deep into the slums. Based on the following principles, innovative methods have been developed in Slum Networking for infrastructure at neighborhood level.

  • Consult with the slum dwellers closely in order to obtain a better understating of their needs and lifestyle. This enables a clearer idea of needs to be established, as well as preparing communities for the changes to come and increasing willingness to pay for and maintain the systems.
  • Co-ordinating the roads, storm drainage and sewerage to natural gradients results in economy and improved function. Simple and inexpensive topography management measures such as cut and fill, site grading and appropriate landscaping ensure that gravity based services operate efficiently.
  • Design infrastructure networks to ensure that basic services reach the entire population in an equitable manner.
  • Ensure minimum disturbance and relocation of existing housing and slums.
  • Infrastructure network must be easy to maintain, repair and upgrade.
  • Avoid wasteful overlaps and uncoordinated services by using and integrated and holistic approach to design.
  • Ensure that the design makes provision for future growth and expansion of the slums.
  • Do not use short-term measures to save money e.g. the provision of community toilets is wasted investment when income levels in the slum become higher. (In any case they are rarely used or maintained)
  • Provide flexibility to enable upgrading when the resource of the slum dwellers increase e.g. by making provision for private toilets and house-to-house water supply, the slum dwellers are able to invest in the option when they can afford it.
  • The success of a project depends on the information available to those designing it. Data banks and drawing archives must be established prior to design so as to ascertain need and existing provision, as well as the physical conditions of the site.
  • Professionalism is needed in all aspects of the work carried out, since slum upgrading is more complex to plan and implement than conventional engineering projects.
  • Use appropriate and innovative technologies. For example, conventional expensive brick manholes will not work in the narrow and twisting lanes of the slums, but small earthenware gully traps can be used instead.
  • Set realistic standards and workable specifications. For example, designing for an ideal water consumption of 250 liters per capita per day, which is unlikely ever to be achieved, will only result in expensive water supply systems and dry sewer runs.
  • Balance the standards adopted with affability.
  • The infrastructure systems need to be assessed on the basis of both the capital costs and continuing maintenance. Looking a capital costs only can produce a deceptive picture. For example, the cost of public latrines appears low if only the capital cost is considered but once maintenance costs area included a different picture emerges.